guitar, musical instrument related to the lute, modern guitars normally having six strings that are plucked with the fingers or strummed with a pick. Earlier versions had pairs of strings like the lute. The guitar usually has a flat back, sides that curve inward to form a waist, and a fretted neck. Other forms of the guitar include the 12-stringed guitar; the steel guitar, played with a metal bar to produce a sliding tone; the electric guitar; and the 4-stringed bass guitar, which, like the electric guitar, is a fixture of rock music and is electronically amplified.
The traditional classical, as opposed to electric guitar, appeared as early as the 12th cent. in Spain, the country with which it is particularly associated. It was very popular there in the 16th cent., when much music was written for it. The composer Fernando Sor (1778–1839) was a brilliant guitarist who wrote many important works for that instrument. In the late 19th cent. there was revived interest in the guitar, aroused largely by the playing of Francisco Tárrega (1852–1909), one of the greatest guitar players of all time. Andrés Segovia was one of the foremost contemporary classical guitarists; he did much to stimulate interest in the instrument and its repertory, especially in 16th-century music.
See H. Turnbull, The Guitar from the Renaissance to the Present (1974); J. Tyler, The Early Guitar (1980); T. Wheeler, American Guitars (1982).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.